Sunday, 16 October 2016

Warner's Extended DC Universe: Destined for Failure?

by Joe Brennan

In 2013, we got our first instalment of what is now an ever growing film universe full of well known and beloved characters (and Aquaman). The film that started this ball rolling was sadly far from Jon Faverau's Iron Man (2008) and in my opinion wasn't even as good as Kenneth Branagh's Thor (2011)! This film was Zack Snyder's Man of Steel- an offensively mediocre film that introduces us to Henry Cavil's Superman. A character who doesn't deserve any description other than "meh".

Flash (pun intended) forward to 2016 and we get the next instalment of a universe we all kind of forgot about (I mean- Marvel have a Hulk!) Time for the second film in the DCEU (DC Extended Universe).  What would they choose to be the next film? Surely they would take not from Marvel's success and spend a few more films introducing relevant characters and developing ones currently there. A film establishing a new Batman, maybe? Or a Superman sequel to develop Superbland and shows us Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor? Perhaps a film that introduces us to Wonder Woman?
Having weaved threads teasing other members of The Justice League and letting us know they will one day assemble. That'd be cool, right? Taking time to establish this universe with solo films (even if done formulaically like Marvel) would pay off in the long run. As we've seen with Joss Whedon's Avengers (2012). 

So which of the above did they choose as their next move?

All of them.

They chose to shove everything into one film. One "film".

 Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was an impossible film to get right. What made it even harder was the fact the competition did exactly the same thing that year and ACTUALLY MADE IT WORK.

If you'd told someone 10 years ago that a film about Captain America (captain what?) fighting Iron Man would receive a better response (both critically and at the box office) than a film WHERE THE BATMAN FIGHTS SUPERMAN, I think most people would have a hard time believing you. I mean, this is The Batman we're talking about!

The difference was that Marvel had 14 films to set up their Civil War and used the films to show strong character motivations and developing tension between certain characters. Civil War was far from a perfect movie but at no point did I think "What? Why? Who's that? Why are they doing that?"
And to me, that made the third Captain America film an all round enjoyable experience.

 BvS DoJ obviously struggled with clear focus and tone and it's hard to blame Zack Snyder, he had to juggle so many new characters and weird extra plots. It's impressive the film managed to even have a few good moments! (Ben Afflek, Gal Gadot). Sadly, the overall film was the mess it was destined to be. As we slowly approached release date and the trailers got less and less promising, the general consensus was "this is gonna be a fun but flawed film" sadly it was much more the latter.

As all this was going on, the third instalment of this disappointing franchise was getting closer. Some genuinely promising trailers and countless articles about Jared Leto's CrAzY pRaNkS on set actually revived the hype for a universe that I assumed wouldn't survive the failure of Batman V Superman (Marthaaaaaa).

The film I'm referencing is obviously Suicide Squad. A film about like bad guys doing kind of good things...badly? I've seen the film and I'm still not quite sure.

There's like a guy who can shoot fire, a Girl Joker, a crocodile, a Will Smith, a climbing dude who like dies instantly and like an Australian guy who throws boomerangs and they fight alongside a woman with a sword and mask. And then Cara Delevingne does a wiggle dance and there's a Scary Army Lady who makes them do good stuff? The Joker is there for some reason but he's also not there for most of it. Batman and The Flash show up for literally seconds. It's all very confusing. I don't know what was going on to be honest, and I really did try.

Imagine everything I just listed above along with some "wacky" and "edgy" editing (jump cuts and random scene changes to make you feel seasick), a pretty interesting score, a few good songs in the soundtrack and a plot that makes about as less sense than than the infamous Martha moment.

Despite all that, the film has its moments. The new Harley Quinn and Joker actually have solid designs and I can't fault Leto and Robbie for what were interesting performances- there's potential there. Will Smith is just kind of Will Smith with a gun but that's definitely not a bad thing. The moments of Batman we see aren't bad all of the action scenes could keep a child entertained.

I'm very upset to say that Cara Delevingne (who I adore) was so painfully awful in this film. I'm not quite sure where the problem was but I think it was a mixture of the writing, the design, the direction, the editing, the performance and the use of this character in this film. So all in all, not great.

Following a hype that could never be lived up to, the release of Suicide Squad was met negatively by underwhelmed fans and baffled critics. While I personally enjoyed some parts of the film quite a bit, it was so far from what it could have been- and hardly even a film!

So now that Justice has Dawned and the Squad have Suicided, where does this messy mess of a universe go from here? Can it get passed this rocky start and deliver quality films about the characters we love? It's impossible to say.

Next year, we'll have Wonder Woman's solo film (I think it's honestly the first female superhero to have a solo film and that's outrageous). While Gal Gadot gave a solid performance in BvS, it's difficult to say whether she could carry a solo movie. This is also director Patty Jenkins' first venture into the superhero genre so it's hard to say how it will turn out. The strange decision of having it set in The First World War may also hinder its chances of success (and has certainly alienated Robert Merriambut we'll have to see.

Also next year (rushed much?) is The Justice League. This will assemble our heroes to fight as a team (even tho they kind of did that in BvS) with Ben Affleck's Batman (who I absolutely love) leading the team. Superman "died" in BvS and I hope they take a while to revive him because we'd get more Batman and Wonder Woman (who, by then, we'll know more about) 

Joining them are The Flash (who has now somehow been in as many DCEU films as Superman due to two weird cameos) Cyborg (basically the terminator) and Aquaman (Ariel's brother) who have only been seen in strange teases so far. If done well, the union of these characters could be spectacular but I fear without serious time taken to make it quality, we'll have another BvS or worse- Suicide Squad.

If all these films do fail, we at least have the chance to see the impressive new realisation of The Joker and Harley Quinn in future- hopefully in a solo Batman film directed by Ben Afflek (the greatest Batman in history) featuring Jeremy Irons' strong new Alfred.

I'm more excited by DC than Marvel. Let this be the film series we deserve and the one we need. I'm super (get it?) excited but fear that this could be the beginning of the DC Film world's Doomsday (I'm sorry).

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